Family speaks after mother charged with child cruelty

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 6:32 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re learning more about the mother charged after finding her 2-year-old son, Justus Hyman, unresponsive in a pool Sunday at a family friend’s house.

He died at the hospital Monday night.

Their family says it was a tragic accident, but authorities charged Dominique Murray with second-degree child cruelty, a felony.

We’re looking into how these charges came about and more about the type of mother Murray is.

If convicted, Murray faces between one and 10 years behind bars. All for something the incident report calls “accidental.”

“I was like no, no, no. My baby. My baby,” said Demetrius Miller, Murray’s mom.

Her grandbaby is gone, and her daughter is behind bars.

“A good young lady. Somebody who’s not of the streets and not in the streets. She takes care of her kids. She takes care of her home,” she said.

Murray wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to Hyman. She was in jail when he died at the hospital.

“They could have brought her up there with chains covered up. Justus needed to see and hear his mother’s voice, and they deprived her of that. They took that away from her,” she said.

We called the Charles B. Webster Detention Center to see why that didn’t happen.

We asked: “Was there a reason why she wasn’t granted leave to see her kid in the hospital?”

Jail staff told us they have to get approval. If it doesn’t get approval through the ranks, they cannot attend.

We reached out to the sheriff’s office to ask who grants that approval. They said, “Per the Sheriff, we will not be making any statements regarding this incident due to the active criminal investigation.”

The family tells us the baby’s doctor requested the mother be able to come to the hospital since his time was limited. But he died before that ever happened.

Murray faces child cruelty in the second degree, but those charges could change now that the child has died.

We spoke to Criminal Defense Attorney Shawn Merzlak at Hawk Law Group to learn more about the potential upgrades.

“It could definitely be upgraded in a case of this nature. It’s really going to be up to prosecutorial discretion. Any time you have a death, and a child is involved because of some type of felony, like cruelty to children in the second, the charge could be felony murder or murder in the second degree, which is a death that occurs as a result of cruelty to children.”

It’s in the prosecutors’ hands.

“There’s always the opportunity for negotiations. Once the investigation is conducted and the prosecutor gets to look at the case, it really is going to be depending on how negligent the actions were. There’s a big difference between a child that has wandered off for two minutes and falling in a pool and a child that has been left unsupervised for an hour,” he said.

As for the family, they say--

“You can always do the right thing. And this was not done right. That’s it,” said Miller.

We also asked the detention center whether or not Murray has a chance of being released on bond. In her initial appearance, they said her bond needs to be addressed by a Superior Court judge. For now, she is denied.